How can I organize all of the information related to my divorce?

The divorce process can be very paper-intensive.  It seems you’re constantly printing, copying, and mailing!  One way to organize all of that paper is to use a tabbed binder.  A binder makes it easy to bring whatever you need with you when you meet with your attorney or other professionals.  You could also use an accordion file with sections for each category, a portable file box with hanging file folders, or a designated drawer in a file cabinet for everything related to your divorce.

You can scan all of your hard-copy documents and file them electronically.  Use a naming convention that makes it easy to quickly identify and retrieve exactly which version of which document you need.

Archive your electronic communication.  Keep all of the emails you send and receive regarding your divorce in a designated folder within your email program.  Sync text and voicemail messages with your computer.

Essential: back up all of your electronic files regularly, preferably in real time, as you update them.  Create copies on a flash drive or CD/DVD and store them in a safe place, like a safe deposit box or with a trusted friend or family member.  Especially important is off-site backup.  Consider backing your data up with an online off-site backup solution provider.

There’s so much to do and I have “Brain Fog”!  How can I manage my time?

Divorce is an emotional time.  When we are super-charged emotionally, we don’t always think clearly.  First, breathe.  Next, know that simplifying your life wherever possible will be key to staying sane.  Then, use a tool to help keep you focused and relieve the stress of trying to remember everything that is on your plate.

For now, keep one master calendar.  It doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or paper.  Choose your view: daily, weekly, monthly, or a combination.  Having just one place to keep all of your information simplifies your life and eliminates the need to keep track of yet one more thing.

Record EVERYTHING – don’t rely on your brain.  Put in your work schedule, your children’s schedules, other family members’ schedules (maybe you’re caring for older parents), appointments with your legal team and other professionals, court appearances, visitation schedules, due dates of paperwork, and anything on your To Do list.  Remember to block off time for fun, exercise, and fresh air, even if it’s only 5 minutes.  Allow for down time (when nothing is scheduled), so you can decompress, just be, talk with your kids, and anticipate anything unexpected that may arise.

Color-code your calendar and/or use stickers to indicate activities.  Color-coding by family member lets you see at a glance who has to be where and when, as well as scheduling conflicts that require advance planning.

What is there realistically time for in your schedule?  Use my mnemonic, D.E.A.R.TM: Delegate, Eliminate, Automate, and Re-evaluate.  What can be outsourced or done by someone who is not you?  What doesn’t have to be done at all?  What can be done automatically?  What is no longer as important as it once was, or what has suddenly become imperative?

Why should I be organized during my divorce?

Having everything you need for your divorce at your fingertips has multiple benefits.

Save on legal fees by limiting the amount of work and time your attorney has to spend on your case.  The more you can make his/her job easier, the easier it will be to finalize the divorce.

Save time by arriving at an agreement quickly.  Knowing ahead of time how you and your former spouse will divvy up the household, what the visitation schedule will be, and who will be responsible for what (children’s, medical, etc.) expenses going forward, the faster your divorce will proceed.

Save your sanity and relieve stress – having everything in place allows you to keep a level head and make good decisions about your financial future and your children’s well-being.

Being organized during a divorce saves your energy for focusing on the big things you have to do rather than on the minutia that saps your strength.  For example, creating a visitation schedule for the children requires your intellectual energy and focus.  Do you really want to be thinking about who is going to clean the bathroom?

Minimize the emotional upheaval your kids have to go through.  Kids need to know that they can rely on their parents to have things under control; they need to feel protected and that everything is going to be OK.  Having things organized during the divorce process frees you up to spend time with them, reassuring them that the divorce is not their fault, the future is bright, and that they are loved by both parents.

How can a professional organizer (PO) help me through the divorce process??

Think of a professional organizer who specializes in divorce organizing as a best friend for hire.  S/he can “be your brain” during the process, keeping you calm, offering a fresh perspective, and helping you to think rationally when emotions are running high.

A PO lives and breathes organizing.  S/he has training and experience in myriad techniques and skills that can complement your own skill set.  S/he can keep you on track and on schedule, helping you to meet deadlines and prepare for legal appointments.

A PO is an extra pair of hands, eyes, and legs.  S/he can help you on-site to find, gather, and organize documents.

S/he can do research, help balance your checkbook, and provide you with access to other professionals in his/her network.

Overall, a PO can help you to prepare for the divorce process, hold your hand while going through it, and help to create systems to support you in your new life.

My spouse and I are headed toward a divorce besides hiring an investigator to uncover if they are having an affair, is there reason to hire an investigator?

There are many things that an investigator can help you with at this stage. They may be able to uncover hidden assets or bank accounts or conduct surveillance to reveal spending, which could affect your property settlement. If your spouse is already involved in another relationship, and there are children involved, a background investigation may be beneficial if there is going to be a custody dispute. Or, if your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, you will need strong evidence for the court, that often only an investigator can obtain through investigation and surveillance.

I’m in the middle of a divorce and it is starting to become contentious. I have an attorney, why would I need an investigator?

Your attorney represents you and is the key to protecting you and your children’s interests, however your attorney needs to go to court armed with evidence. A good investigator will work closely with your attorney and become a part of your “legal team.” Don’t ever assume that the court will recognize that you are telling the truth and your spouse is lying. Your attorney will need evidence. Because of the importance of their relationship, ask your attorney for a recommendation for an investigator. Otherwise, screen several investigators and present them and their credentials to your attorney to make the best choice.

I’m divorced and paying alimony, but I believe my former spouse is living with their significant other, which should terminate alimony. How do I prove this?

Proving ‘co-habitation’ to terminate alimony is a common request for investigators. This can be an involved process, and depending upon the circumstances, challenging. First, look at the precise language in your divorce agreement. There may be specific language concerning co-habitation. Then collect as much evidence as you can to prove that a relationship exists and for how long it has been taking place. The investigation must be conducted over an extended period of time, long enough to prove the residency and the extent of the relationship. There are several things to keep in mind that need to be proven, but your state’s law will dictate what evidence is required. (1.) Intertwined finances/sharing living expenses. (2.) Living together in a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship. (3.) Sharing household chores. (4.) Recognition of the relationship within social and family circles. It is very important to hire an investigator or firm who has extensive experience in these investigations. Ask them about their experience in conducting these investigations, but also ask them to detail their investigative plan.